Review by Jeff Maki
DevilDriver, the headliner of the Bound by the Road Tour, now has seven studio albums under its belt. Yes, seven. The band has been around that long, and I’m getting that old. But the band in direct support on the tour has been around way longer—Death Angel. Thirty-five years to be exact.
Death Angel has been an absolute machine in recent years, churning out its style of Bay Area thrash metal with albums Killing Season (2008), Relentless Retribution (2010), The Dream Calls for Blood (2013) and last year’s The Evil Divide, which earned an honorable mention on my “best of the year” list. I also interviewed frontman Mark Osegueda in 2010 (read here) and again in 2016 (read here). Both times, his excitement and enthusiasm was unlike anyone I’ve interviewed. It turns out he carries this enthusiasm over to the stage
This was my first time seeing Death Angel live even though I’ve been listening to the band since its 1988 album, Frolic Through the Park. Despite only a seven-song set, Osegueda and the band—featuring the longtime classic twin guitar attack of Rob Cavestany and Ted Aguilar—led the intimate crowd through an absolute thrash metal clinic. Osegueda has a Joey Belladonna-like level of stage presence and kept the crowd engaged. The crowd seemed to be at its peak for Death Angel. But I got the feeling that whether they were playing in front of 100 people or 10,000, it wouldn’t have made a difference.
The highlight of the set was the closer, “The Moth,” which was introduced as “their own moth song.”
Death Angel Set List: “The Ultra-Violence/Evil Priest,” “Claws in So Deep,” “Left for Dead,” “Father of Lies,” “Caster of Shame,” “Thrown to the Wolves,” “The Moth”
A few years back, Winds of Plague vocalist Johnny Plague (real name Jonathan Cooke) thought the band had played its last show in Anaheim on Bleeding Through’s farewell tour. Multiple lineup changes, and perhaps a loss of competitive fire, then led to a hiatus. Johnny said this was the band’s first tour in four years. He’s also the only remaining band member from when I last saw them live on the 2011 Warped Tour. But you wouldn’t have known it. The band still plays its Samurai-themed, symphonic deathcore, complete with a keyboard player, Adrienne Cowan, who provides backing vocals and even takes lead vocals on a few songs. The riffs are hardcore, the breakdowns still deathcore.
Johnny moves around onstage like a heavyweight boxer in a title bout, sparring and jabbing as he bounces back and forth, floating like a butterfly, and … you know. But seriously, this dude’s vocals are ferocious, and the band’s violent style ignites a fuse in a live setting.
I guess I hadn’t realized the band had been gone for four years, so I expected more of a following to show at Soundstage. It didn’t matter. Those who were there circle-pitted and hardcore-danced like it was 2008.
Newly inked to E1 Music, expect the follow-up to Winds of Plague’s 2013’s Resistance in the near future.
This was my second time seeing Canada’s The Agonist in the span of a few months. After seeing them this time, I believe Vicky Psarakis is just fine as a replacement for former vocalist Alissa White-Gluz (now with Arch Enemy). Shealways will hear the comparisons, but it’s clear this is becoming more her band. Touring in support of its 2016 album 5, The Agonist plays a European style of extreme metal, with elements of power and progressive metal. Psarakis’ intertwining growled vocals and melodic clean singing make every song somewhat of a surprise, especially if you haven’t heard the newer material yet.
Australia’s Azreal made an impression. And judging from the early returns of our coverage of the ’90s-style thrash/heavy metal band, these guys are building up a fan base. (Was it the entire continent of metal fans in Australia who provided our traffic?) I commented during their energetic set that they reminded me of ’90s groove metal acts like White Zombie, Prong and Pantera. Throw in a healthy dose of Lamb of God, and you’ve got a quality up-and-coming metal band (with funny accents, as frontman Luke Hosking would say). The band’s latest album, Premonition, was released in 2014. Watch these guys.
DevilDriver’s self-proclaimed “California groove metal” has staying power. Seven albums in, and aside from a break for a Coal Chamber album released in 2015, Dez Fafara keeps pumping them out. He’s also been going through band members, as Fafara is the only remaining member of the initial lineup. Touring in support of 2016’s Trust No One, the set was a “greatest hits,” spanning the band’s discography. Highlights included “I Could Care Less,” “Hold Back the Day” and a cover of AWOLNATION’s “Sail,” which got one of the best responses from the crowd.
The band had the best sound of the night as a true headliner should, and Dez is still a charismatic frontman after all these years. Between his former band and DevilDriver, Dez has been damn near an institution in heavy metal for more than 20 years.
DevilDriver Set List: “End of the Line,” “Not All Who Wander Are Lost,” “Grin Fucked,” “Cry for Me Sky,” “Daybreak,” “I Could Care Less,” “My Night Sky,” “Hold Back the Day,” “Sail,” “Before The Hangman’s Noose,” “Clouds Over California,” “Ruthless,” “Meet the Wretched”